30 Oct Where there is work, there is workplace stress
Email after email demanding your attention, coupled with stressful workloads, deadlines to meet, constant interruptions via the phone or your colleagues and the fragile interpersonal work relationships can challenge even the healthiest soul!
However some simple techniques can help keep you calm, collected and reduce your stressfulness at work…
The Multitasking Myth
Did you know that “Multitasking” was first introduced in the 1960s to praise the proficiencies of computers and their ability to perform more than one task at a time.
Between now and then, society decided that the human brain has the same capacity and that it is needed to have an effective work ethic.
There is a problem with this thought process, despite the idea that “more is more,” for most of us, multitasking is not a viable option.
Research has shown that 98% of the population cannot concentrate on more than one thing at a time! Meaning, those that do divide their attention over multiple tasks will find their end results will reflect a lower quality of work, containing more errors and which shows less creativity.
It has also shown that multitasking isn’t just unproductive, it’s stressful too! Employees who are heavy multitaskers have higher levels of anxiety and feel they are putting in more effort, have a heavier workload and are under greater pressure at work than their colleagues who don’t partake in multitasking.
As an alternative to multitasking, consider “time-chunking”.
Time-chunking requires you to group similar activities together. As an example, you need to write an article, block out 2 hours and do nothing else during that time. No answering emails, no taking phone calls. When you remove near-constant interruptions, you’ll be surprised at what can be accomplished in short bursts.
What are your priorities?
Not every project is urgently urgent! If you are that employee who always finds themselves with dozens of tasks on your to-do list every week, it’s time to prioritize.
Every morning, get into the habit of setting aside a few minutes to review your tasks, listing them low to high order for the day according to urgency. Once you’ve determined your top tasks for the day, focus on them exclusively until they are completed. If any of your priority tasks remain incomplete at the end of the day, move them to the top of your list for the next day, along with your next tasks.
If you are finding that certain things consistently fall to the bottom of your priority list without ever rising in importance, there is probably a good reason for this. Sometimes those tasks just fall away or perhaps they can be given to a colleague who has the time to complete them.
Another technique to consider is the Eisen Hower Matrix. The Eisenhower Matrix, also referred to as Urgent-Important Matrix, helps you decide on and prioritize tasks by urgency and importance, sorting out less urgent and important tasks which you should either delegate or not do at all.
Learn more here: https://www.eisenhower.me/eisenhower-matrix/
In work and life, there are two types of stress: internal and external.
In the workplace, external factors could be poor management, work overload, office politics may be beyond our control. A large percentage of our stress however is self-imposed, meaning that internal stress makes external circumstances more difficult to handle.
Have you got a constant internal voice in your head that says you’re not doing enough or that you’re not smart/talented/experienced enough to get to where you want to be or should be professionally – shut it off! It is a self-defeating thought pattern, which magnifies every failure and contributes to higher anxiety and stress levels.
When you find yourself falling into your negative thought pattern, stop what you’re doing. Take a deep breath and do a self-check, asking yourself these questions:
• Are my thoughts based in fact, or are they my own interpretation of what I think? Am I overthinking and is my mind poisoning my thoughts?
• Am I worrying about the worst possible scenario to occur? How likely is that to happen?
• Will the item that I am concerned about right now matter a week from now? A month? A year? Worry about something, when it happens.
When you take the time to answer these questions honestly, you’ll often find that you’ve worked yourself up over matters of no real consequence. Once you recognise that you’re putting unwarranted pressure on yourself, it’s much easier to let that stress go.
Stretch those legs and step away from your desk…
“51% of those studied, said it is rare or unrealistic for them to take a proper lunch break away from their work”
Not taking those all-important breaks, means that employees are suffering from increased fatigue, irritability, poor time management and reduced problem-solving capabilities.
Research suggests that having regular breaks (it’s suggested that we function best if we renew our energy at 90-minute intervals) will lower your stress levels, revive focus, improve decision-making skills and allow you to think more creatively.
Why not go for a walk around the office, stretch or make your colleagues a drink. Just make the effort to move, even if it’s just for a few minutes so that your body moving, provides a respite and allows you to come back rejuvenated and ready to do your best work. You could also look at wellbeing treatments for you and your colleagues, like workplace massage treatments or perhaps a yoga or Pilates session – they are relaxing, beneficial and valued by organisations right across the UK.
Set your boundaries
Sadly, we have become a society that places a high value on accessibility and the expectation of always being available due to technology! It has become more common for people to engage in office politics that have them working longer hours and attending networking events outside of work in an effort to get ahead and become a big player in the business world!
With all of this, it leaves precious little time to call your own.
It is important to be clear about your work/life boundaries, both with yourself and others. The feeling of being constantly “on” can quickly lead to job burnout, which is a serious issue with far-reaching career implications.
It is perfectly acceptable and normal to pass on drinks after work to go home and de-stress, or to refuse to answer emails or texts after 9pm. Define your boundaries—and stick to them!